≫ The Myth Of False Hope
Whilst writing my last post about fear I naturally started thinking about the importance of hope and the ways in which it is perceived, but also this idea of ‘false hope’ that keeps popping up…!?
Listening to Hal Elrod’s latest talk last week so much of what he said about his own ‘rock bottom’ moments rang true for me. He describes how his positivity in the face of his life changing accident led people, mainly medical staff, to believe he was in denial and wasn’t fully accepting his situation.
In the first few weeks and months of my diagnosis I was met with some similar concerns, from people who couldn’t understand why I was still smiling, why I wasn’t sobbing my eyes out all the time and how I managed to pick myself up so quickly. I had a lot of cocked heads, looks of sadness, while I was saying, “I’m good, I’m doing really well!”. I even found myself trying to find things I was upset about just so I had something to discuss with my hospital counsellor.
People kept telling me that I mustn’t ignore those feelings that I must have had, and I would sit and search for them, but I just wasn’t in that place. Don’t get me wrong, I was initially, but as I discussed in my last post those feelings where mainly from a fear of the unknown, or rather, the fear of very well known monster that is cancer.
But as Hal so wisely says, “There is no value in dwelling on something that is out of our control.”
“Can’t Change it!”
I had somehow fully accepted the worst case scenario of my situation and chosen to put that to one side whilst I put all my energy and emotions into the future. Yes it is fine to have off days, and we must allow ourselves to feel any negative emotions that arise, however it is not good for us to sink into that place. I am not saying this is simple and it will take people different lengths of time to get there, but what I have learnt is that putting all your energy into wishing something hadn’t happened and being upset that it did, will only cause you more anguish.
It was hope for the future that got me through my diagnosis, and led me away so quickly from the aforementioned fear. The hope that I could live another 40 years or the hope that I could be one of those ‘spontaneous remission’ survivors I’d read so much about. Even just the hope that next months blood tests will be OK. Faced with any obstacle we have a choice as to how we move forward, and if we put restrictions on the possibilities, we won’t accomplish half the things we are capable of. Set the bar high, and celebrate what you do have, no matter how small those things are.
This isn’t denial, or me ignoring the gravity of my diagnosis. It is in some ways the ultimate acceptance of my situation, but a choice to move forward with positivity and a hope that there are options to be discovered, and as I uncover more options as my journey goes on the hope only grows stronger!
For me, hope is not placed solely on the scientists researching new cancer cures, the majority is in all the hundreds and thousands of positive stories there are of people healing through other means. I may never need a lot of these methods, or may never get the chance to try some of them but it makes me feel positive, and dare I say excited, that these things are out there curing people of so many things.
So when I sit in that hospital room with my oncologist, it feels like only one small portion of my journey. That is not where all my hope lies. So when/if there is some bad news, its OK, because there is another 80% of my healing journey to fall back on and pick me up.
Hope is absolutely necessary for everyone, and especially for those of us living lives of such uncertainty. We will all have different ideas of what this is and find it in different places. For some the hope does rest on finding another breakthrough cancer treatment soon. For others it is hope that changing their diet with help eliminate their cancer, and for some, just that they will feel well tomorrow. Everybody’s journey is different and that is OK. It is important not to listen to any negativity or nay-sayers who tell you your doing something wrong and trust your own gut.
A defeatist attitude serves no one, least of all the person going through it. The alternative is hopelessness, and all this helps to make things worse. But also, what a rubbish way to spend the rest of your life? If I have to be a stage 4 cancer patient, then i’ll be the most grateful, happy, hopeful cancer patient I can be.
This is where this notion of ‘false hope’ comes in. The idea that some hope we feel could be damaging if it doesn’t end with the outcome we hoped for. There is also a lot of talk about how some so called ‘quack’ practitioners around the world are peddling ‘false hope’, putting people through rigorous treatment plans and restrictive diets, while denying people of the things they enjoy, with the promise of a miracle cure.
This idea of ‘false hope’ is a somewhat mystifying one to me. How can any hope be false?
Whilst I’m sure there are some questionable practitioners that take advantage of peoples desperation and fear in this moment, the same can be said of the opposing side too, discouraging against anything outside of conventional medicine through lack of knowledge and supposed lack of evidence, and denying people the chance to explore things that potentially could be lifesaving. There is an equal amount of skepticism about conventional drugs, which I won’t go into in this post, but just to make a point, that neither side has all the answers.
The truth is, a lot of the answers are out there, and there is nothing stopping us searching this out for ourselves. Granted, some complementary therapies may do nothing more than give you more energy, or boost your immune system – but thats all necessary, especially if you are going through cancer! Who wouldn’t want that!? Also, make yourself healthy and I can almost guarantee you will start to feel less hopeless.
The way I see it, if a new treatment has only have a 5% chance of working – there’s hope in that 5%. If an alternative protocol you have been researching has helped even 100 people, there is hope in those 100!
Hope simply means, confidence in the future, an anticipation of something positive happening. Even if this thing we hope for doesn’t come true, it doesn’t mean that hope has been a waste of time. Hope is fluid and will change as you go through life. I hoped that my biopsy would come back negative, then I hoped that the MRI scan would show it hadn’t spread, then I hoped I wouldn’t need chemo. Some of these things obviously didn’t come true but without that hope during those times, I definitely wouldn’t have managed to bounce back in the way I did.
Hope itself, is a very powerful healing force for the body and mind. There is such at hing as a self fulfilling prophecy, and it’s proven that those that give in to their diagnosis with hopelessness, will see much less improvement in their overall health.
The power of your belief in something will only have a positive effect on you. In fact, even the placebo effect is massively underrated. During a relatively recent controlled trial of chemotherapy, 30% of the patients in the placebo group actually lost their hair (!!) for no other reason than that they believed they were receiving chemotherapy!
We know instinctively what is right for us, whatever obstacle we are facing. What feels right for one person may not for another, but we have to give ourselves the opportunity to explore that, step outside of convention, statistics and wade through all the negativity and bad advice that is lurking around in plain sight. Because ultimately the moment you really start to listen to your gut and follow your instinct you will find the right journey for you. Whatever that may be for you, you will feel confident and positive and have so much hope that the fear will disappear, and that, is much more powerful than any pill or injection anyone can prescribe you.
That is why, I am in NO WAY one of those that doesn’t want to hear of the ‘miracle cure’ your friends, boyfriend, mums, brother tried. I’m all ears! Bring. It. On. Flood the inbox with all your weird and wonderful suggestions. Knowledge is power, and both of those things are my hope.
“Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure” – Rumi